Let’s face it, 2020 was a year like no other. The music industry was hit especially hard with venues getting closed, and tours or festivals being canceled. Hardcore punk, however, still survived the apocalypse and we managed to publish dozens of articles on DIY Conspiracy about new bands, records and imprints—not too pitiful for a year rife with personal and professional challenges!
As I’m looking forward to what 2021 has in store, I’ve also compiled some personal highlights of raw hardcore, punk and crust that came out last year.
I hope you find something new from this list to enjoy.
1 偏執症者 (Paranoid) – Out Raising Hell
For me, this year’s stand-out hardcore punk album could only be this rough, dark, and a menacing infernal trip. The record’s ten mötorkång tracks throb with an eerie sense of threatening design, seeming as if they are about to reach out through the speakers to steal your very soul and set everything ablaze. I confess that the blistering, råpunk assaults of early 偏執症者 (Paranoid) were very close to my heart—to the point I was a bit disappointed by the mid-tempo, heavy-metal direction they took with their last few records. Out Raising Hell, however, is a dope mixture of blackened, motörcharged d-beat punk & metal. And if there’s a band that could make this style appeal to me, it’s the outright brilliance of this Northern gang of hellraising punks that still seems to be unmatched in their unconditional love and dedication to the DIY metal punk sound and attitude.
2 LIFE – Ossification of Coral
Originating in Japan, the term crasher crust is often used to describe a particular type of absurdly raw, chaotic, and noise-drenched style of protest punk music. It is usually defined by its crude, shrieking vocals and extremely distorted, screeching guitars. Galloping drums are emphasised by crash cymbals, which further aid the already menacing and chaotic nature of this music.
The third full-length album of Tokyo’s LIFE starts off with those hallmark crasher crust cymbals—continuing through 28 more minutes of ripping chaos and distortion. Although these 13 fiery tracks, packed with scorching vocal delivery and blood-curdling riffs, might be considered a sonic and musical abomination in a sense, there’s also a more refined, peaceful and deeply humane side of their work—as evident in their name, which stands for Liberty Independence Freedom Equality. Dedicated to the importance of ecosystem preservation and protection of coral reefs in particular, as well as its impact on humans and survival of all life, Ossification of Coral is undoubtedly one of the most daring and important records in recent crust history. Everything you love about Japanese-style hardcore and crust punk you’ll find in this amazing album by one of the greatest bands in the genre.
3 Clock of Time – Pestilent Planet
Berlin’s Clock of Time debut LP made waves across the underground when it dropped in August, 2020. Featuring members of the mighty Diät, Vexx, and Useless Eaters, Clock of Time play an emotionally staggering post-punk with ice-cold, brooding 80s death-rock edge. Honestly, I haven’t been paying much attention to most of the post-punk released in 2020, but I’m sure this phenomenal record is widely appreciated by the die-hard fans of the genre.
4 Sial – Tari Pemusnah Kuasa
In the last few years Singapore has remained on the DIY punk map with some amazing bands, but it’s the raging mix of soaring anarcho-punk, SE-Asian hardcore intensity, explosive riffs and fierce d-beat drumming of Sial that will drag you around for a erratic ride. Fed up with the state of the world today? Turn up the volume, clench your fists and let the raucous hardcore of Tari Pemusnah Kuasa (Power Destroyer Dance) drip in.
5 GELD – Beyond The Floor
Since they burst onto the scene a few years ago, Melbourne’s GELD have received a lot of hype, and for a good reason: the raw energy and mind-bending psychedelic prog sounds incorporated into their bombastic hardcore punk assault have been a breeding ground for many ecstatic records to come.
The band’s latest offering, Beyond the Floor LP, is another genre-defying triumph within the hardcore punk underground. Their throat-ripping, hallucinogenic, and wild as hell tantrums amount to what must be the weirdest sonic assault of the year in punk. FFO: Pills, meth, booze, weed, DMT, hate, betrayal, fear, love, depression, addiction, denial and broken bones.
6 Haircut – Cake EP
Richmond’s four-piece Haircut play noisy, dirge-filled hardcore punk that only gets better and better. Pairing upbeat punk melodies with a storm of angst and desperation, Haircut have totally nailed it this time with their relentless attack of fast and dissonant Exit Order-esque riffs, coupled with singer Juliana’s biting snarls and clever lyricism. Get ready for a truly weird and fast of ride with this one.
7 Bombardement – EP.
While traditional d-beat punk may, at first glance, appear to be one of the more conservative musical genres, where many bands do not really stand out on their own, Bordeaux, France’s Bombardement are simply refusing to become another mere copy of the original sound started by Discharge and Anti-Cimex in the ’80s.
After an incredibly well-received EP in 2019, here’s another straight up ripper that momentally made it to my 2020 favorites! I’ve been listening to these four songs on repeat so much already, and still can’t get enough of it! Nothing else comes close.
8 Heavy Discipline – S/T LP
Heavy Discipline is one of the hottest raw, violent and primitive hardcore bands right now and that’s for a reason. After a killer 5-track demo released in 2019, Pittsburgh’s hardcore pack (featuring members of Loose Nukes, Masakari, Hounds of Hate, Concealed Blade, and many more), is back with an impressive LP that secured them on top of hardcore end-of-year lists all over the world.
In the course of its short but straight to the point 12 tracks, this debut album combines everything we love about raw hardcore & punk. Channeling the early hardcore aggression of Negative Approach, SSD, and DYS, as well as the stomping riffs and combat attitude of British Oi! in the vein of Blitz, and all that with a more modern approach to songwriting about things that matter in the world today, this not just a rabid throwback to the glory days of hardcore but Heavy Discipline also manage to successfully convey these vibes in a meaningful way to present day. If you have missed this record, now it’s your time to catch up—Pittsburgh violent hardcore at its finest!
9 Vile Spirit – Scorched Earth
UK’s Vile Spirit are fired-up and ready to blow up the whole fucking world with their combustible ensemble of raw ’90s-influenced metallic hardcore (they covered Integrity’s “In Contrast of Sin” on their 2019’s demo), warp-speed powerviolence, and punishing death metal breakdowns. Scorched Earth is an all-consuming record with a rawness and ferocity like no other.
10 Zodiak – TKY 2020 Flexi
This Zodiak flexi is the latest instalment in the international FLEXILICKERS series by Symphony of Destruction. Based in Tokyo, Zodiak are bunch of raw punks playing in other notable acts like Morpheme, The Vertigos, and the singer of California’s ODIO. On this flexi we have three ear-slaughtering tracks of straight up fast, abrasive and relentless noise punk in the Japanese tradition. If you like this stuff, don’t forget to check the other bands on the series too.
11 Bastard Noise – “The Birthdays Continue
. . . ”
It feels a bit weird to actually list a live album in this article, especially when it comes to 2020 as virtually no shows were taking place for the most part of the year. This Bastard Noise tape, however, is an absolute rager from start to finish. The release features a live recording from January 11th, 2020 in Oakland, CA.
Alongside noise/powerviolence legend Eric Wood—the only constant member of Bastard Noise since the early ’90s—is the phenomenal crust singer Saira Huff (Question, Detestation, Atrocious Madness). Both Eric and Saira are really great in creating intense atmosphere of pure, misanthropic animosity that continues for almost 25 minutes. The record is a droning beast punishing the listener with brick-wall heavy electronics, pained vocals and a brooding atmosphere created by these two great DIY artists. Probably the best, and hopefully not the last, live set these two have ever played together. Hands down to Orb tapes for releasing these live recordings. Expect a deeper dive in their catalog on DIY Conspiracy really soon.
12 Kohti Tuhoa – Elä Totuudesta EP
Finnish hardcore punks Kohti Tuhoa are the modern masters of their domain. Their latest Elä Totuudesta EP follows their widely-appreciated 2019’s Ihmisen Kasvot LP and much like its predecessor, the band expertly blends classic Kaaos & Rattus-style punk with some unexpectedly well-taken hook-heavy riffs.
Kohti’s singer, Helena, is once again on a rampage here, delivering her vocals at full throttle, so as to complement the chaotic riffs and raging d-beats. Another great release from La Vida Es Un Mus. Apparently, Kohti Tuhoa have much more up their dirty sleeves, and we can’t wait for what comes next.
13 Sadie & The Wives – S/T 7″ Demo
Canadian queer punks Sadie & The Wives are probably my biggest raw punk discovery of the year. Just like many other bands on this list, they take on a violent, rough and noisy approach to classic hardcore punk but this is not your run-of-the-mill hardcore band at all. Their debut 7” EP consists of six great minutes of puncturing d-beats, unsettling riffs and extremely violent vocal delivery. Reminds of G.L.O.S.S. Recommended for those who dare.
14 Radical Kitten- Silence is Violence
This debut LP from Toulouse, France’s Radical Kitten made waves across the underground when it dropped in October. Energetic, angry, and weird-sounding hardcore punk with a brooding riot-grrrl edge.
Twelve amazing, non-linear punk tracks putting the queer and non-binary folks to the front, while veering away from the canons with some really captivating psychedelic, dark and shoegazy overtones. I just can’t stress enough how good this album is.
15 Homomilitia – S/T LP
Undoubtedly one of the best and most important bands to have ever come out of Poland, Homomilitia were the European answer to the rise of ’90s crust punk sound in the States. Effortlessly blending metallic guitar sound, fast paced d-beats and gruff dual vocal delivery with radical anarchist, feminist, and antihomophobic messages, their sound is still as relevant today as it was in the genre’s heydays.
Released in 1996, Homomilitia’s Twoje ciało – twój wybór is still among my favorite Polish records of all time, and, unfortunately, it still resonates with the current affairs in their country as if it was released just yesterday. Homomilitia’s second LP, however, was recorded in 2000 and finds the band at the pinnacle of their musical creativity. It took us 20 years to finally be able to hear this but it does not only sounds fresh and politically relevant in 2020, it’s actually among the best records of the year. The two singers viciously spit out their anti-oppressive message over an ominous metallic crust and anarcho-punk beats. Highly recommended. Always against the right-wing governments and repressive anti-choice legislations, in Poland and everywhere!
16 Axiom – Eco-Punk (Reissue)
Portland, OR’s Axiom are possibly the greatest American crust metal band of our times—relentless in their politically, environmentally, and even spiritually charged message, sonically tight, and exceptionally gifted to write timeless songs in a rapidly changing world. I fondly remember listening to their bone-crushingly heavy EPs in my teenage years, as well as being hooked to Ben Axiom’s consistent “Holisticore” columns in Profane Existence magazine, where he was writing about permaculture gardening, martial arts, Taoism, spirituality, eco-utopias, and all kind of hippie stuff that goes way beyond your usual peace-punk/crust themes.
Axiom’s latest record Eco-Punk came out on CD in 2015 (although recorded in 2013), embodying the crust punk spirit of the ’90s—brutal dual male-female vocals, wartorn metallic riffs, and machine-gun like drumming delving into the grindcore territory—and taking it to a whole new level with the whole concept of the holistic eco-punks of the future. Thanks to Ar Stalic Presents, this amazing album was finally reissued on vinyl and made available for streaming on Bandcamp.
17 Pisse – S/T LP
At a time when most punk-rock bands do nothing more than regurgitate the same old riffs and trite lyrical themes, absolutely original and innovative bands like Germany’s synth-punk powerhouse Pisse have already achieved a cult status among some underground circles.
The long-awaited new Pisse album appeared in 2020 on my favorite Phantom Records and it’s just as weird, innovative and surprising in its art and sound like all other Pisse records so far. Still fast, synth-heavy and choke-full of dark humour and sarcasm, this is definitely the band we’ve loved for a long time. The overall sound, however, is much heavier, almost hardcore-oriented while also nodding into a darker, post-punk direction. It’s a great leap forward and exactly how the band should sound in the nightmare of a year that 2020 was. This time the artwork is based around street art with plenty of German graffiti artists, each with their own style, transferring Pisse’s songs onto the walls. Featured artists include Keyhole, Kess, Fako, 161 Dresden and many more. A great release by a favorite band that needs more attention.
18 Exploatör – Avgrundens Brant
Avgrundens Brant is the second album of this kängpunk supergroup hailing from Sweden. Members of Exploatör have been doing this thing at least since the Bronze age in bands like Totalitär, Warcollapse, No Security, Meanwhile, Disfear, Slutet, Dischange, Kvoteringen, Krigshot, Makabert Fynd, Dissekerad, Krig I Hudik, Katastrof, Institution, Brainbombs, Napalm A.D., Desperate Fix, Ääritila… and probably a thousand more. There’s no chance to get a more all-star band playing a more classic take on Swedish d-beat and råpunk. This record is a definite must-hear!
19 Junta – Død Tid EP
This tape is a total no-brainer. Six new tracks of raw, fast and entirely obliterating, nihilist hardcore punk from Copenhagen, Denmark. Junta’s style could be loosely compared to the Swedish Totalitär with an angry squatter punk vibe and antisocial lyrics in Danish. Out of fashion, out of step, out of tune.
20 Veneno – Herejía
Released in the very beginning of 2020, Veneno’s Herejía (Heresy) LP is a stampeding wild beast of fast, high-energy hardcore with raging political lyrics sung in Catalan. These guys—who also play in other Barcelona bands like Arrest, Cruz, and Peligro!—are all about pushing fast, innovative and furious hardcore to the absolute limit. This whole record swings with incredibly tight, fast and enjoyable melodies from start to finish. Just turn it up and enjoy!
21 Bootlicker – How To Love Life EP
Bootlicker’s latest EP is finally here, bringing six relentless tracks of pure, no-frills hardcore punk. This is one of those bands who refuse to accept that the style has changed since the 1980s, but I mean this as an affirmation of their exceptionable old-school sound rather than complaining about it. It’s raw & dirty UK’82, pounding first-wave Boston hardcore, and snotty Midwest punk all rolled into one. You shouldn’t expect to hear anything new in this Vancouver’s band repertoire. Instead, it’s like a time machine to some of the best era of hardcore punk and it’s impossible not to play their records with the same urgency and excitement over and over again.
22 G*U*N*N – Peace Love & Heavy Weaponry EP
Dirty, fast and aggressive hardcore coming from Orange County, CA. Think of ’80’s classics like N.O.T.A., Negative Approach, and Negative FX with incredibly gruff vocals, wildly catchy riffs and nihilistic punk attitude. Their 2019 five-track demo was a full-scale blast, and now they are back with another five tracker of the same ripping hardcore. The skits, police sirens and phony conversations within the tracks give me some old-school powerviolence feel and make the recordings even spicier.
Recently this whole ’80s revival sound has become popular with Armor, Jackal, Laffing Gas, and other USHC bands. I think G*U*N*N is my favorite among them all.
23 Vaxine – S/T EP
In 2020 punk-rock is a very vague label but there are bands like Brooklyn’s Vaxine that still live up to the reputation. After releasing a great demo in 2019, this supergroup of sorts (find members of PMS 84, Spetsnaz, Sad Boys, and tons of others play here) are back with five more tracks of gnarly echoing vocals, chaotic guitars and spiteful lyrics that set the standard for a real antisocial punk-fucking-rock. Bands like Chaotic Dischord, The Swankys, and even some Exploited and UK Subs easily come to mind when listening to this. In a time when the whole world is talking about the vaccines, here’s your perfect punk-rock fix. Anti-vaxxers fuck off! Get your VAXINE now!
24 Impotentie – Leopold II is niet dood genoeg
No love for one of the biggest genociders in European colonial history. Belgium’s Leopold II was the sole owner and absolute ruler of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908, causing almost ten million Congolese deaths and countless of despicable atrocities, including child mutilation, as the native people were forced to harvest and process rubber for his colonial economic interests.
In 1890, the term “crimes against humanity” was coined specifically to describe the practices of Leopold II towards the population of Congo, and even some of the best upbeat Oi!-influenced punk-rock of the year isn’t enough to make him justice as one of the worst pieces of shit in our history books. But Impotentie’s music is worth checking out anyway. Eight infectiously catchy yet intense punk tracks in Flemish, plus the awesome artwork of the most famous Belgium’s statue ruthlessly pissing on the most infamous one—Leopold II is niet dood genoeg, indeed!
25 Tower 7 – Entrance To A Living Organism
New York’s Tower 7 have created a dangerously infectious debut album. In its eight tracks, Entrance To A Living Organism is littered with punishing metallic riffs, coupled with rouble-rousing anarcho-punk sound that is as tight, dirty and aggressive as it gets. Each track is following the classic ’80s anarcho formula layered with absolutely menacing vocals and a metallic dirge of catastrophic proportions. A must have for those who are still into the proto-crust/crossover sound of Anti-System, A//Solution and Electro Hippies. Hopefully, such a great record will help this style to find a new generation of listeners.
26 Zone Infinie – Dégats EP
Saint-Étienne’s Zone Infinie are among the finest French punk bands in recent years. I’ll be very brief here as their new EP is, unfortunately, too short to enjoy their new music in full fidelity, but it actually goes so well in pair with the newly released 7″ from Syndrome 81 who play a similar style to theirs. This is an aptly produced, melodic French punk filled with classic “Chaos en France” Oi! influences at its best and we can only hope that more new music is on its way in 2021.
27 Respite – DEMO 2020
There’s always a lot of hype around Swedish bands but I’m sure you won’t find this powerful demo in anyone else’s end of year list. Gothenburg’s best kept secret is called Respite, and they’ve released their three-track demo in the Spring of 2020. The music is amazingly tight, rough-around-the-edges hardcore, taking nods to the ’80s and early ’90s sound. The lyrics are mainly political but come written in a personal perspective. Vocals are angry, songs are short, intense and pretty well played.
28 Reek Minds – S/T EP
More raging hardcore from PDX brought out by Reek Minds. Seven tracks of totally great thrashing hardcore played fast and straight to the point. Good sound quality and ripping vocals on this one. No gimmicks here, just straight up aggression in the tradition of bands like Ripcord, Heresy, and Negative Approach. How can you go wrong?
29 RAMPAGE! – Thoughts of a Distorted Mind
This new Athens-based Greek band cranks out infectious and extremely well-played pure and simple old school hardcore punk! The band had their first practice in January 2020 and in November they dropped this great 11-track demo. Each and every song on this sounds as if it’s coming straight from the ’80s. Damn, they even have a song called “The 80s made me do it!” and an Antidote NYHC cover.
30 CUERO – Cabezabota 12″ EP
More raging combat rock from Basque label Mendeku Diskak. Four tracks of classic Oi! punk anthems dripped in melodic leads, heavy riffs and a total fist-fight attitude. Bilbao is still a hotbed for this kind of music, and CUERO is following the steps of many other great bands before them. A powerful piece of Basque Oi! and punk-rock.
31 Repeat Offender – Demo 2020
Another great new record from the Basque skin & punk label Mendeku Diskak, this time bringing us the long-awaited vinyl reissue of the immediately sold out Repeat Offender’s demo tape released earlier in March.
Coming from Los Angeles, this band cranks out six monumental tracks of early US hardcore with a solid dose of British Oi! influences and a timeless draw to it. Repeat Offender’s sound is based on mid tempo stomps that make for a raw and intense listening experience, not the poser fashionable Oi! that many other American bands try to present as skinhead music these days. This is the real thing if you are into this kind of music.
32 Phane – S/T LP
Vancouver punks Phane bring us 14 tracks of pure filth and fury UK82-influenced hardcore tempered by rough metallic guitars. In this raw and fast ride you get all the best of barking vocals, scything motörcharged riffs and galloping drums at crackling speed. Highly recommended for the punk hordes mad about Varukers, English Dogs, and Broken Bones.
33 Pus – S/T EP
Pus is a blackened punk band from Lima, Peru that plays fast and desperate music combining many elements of great hardcore punk and metal. The five songs on the EP are searing with chaotic guitar mayhem, soaring bass and blistering drum attacks building a lot of tension to make way for the crude and evil vocal delivery. I’m always excited to hear new bands from Peru and this one is surely a promising one. Overall, this EP is wickedly good, although I think they still need to work on the songwriting to add some more intensity and brutality to their sound.
More good punk-rock, crust and raw hardcore records reviewed on DIY Conspiracy in 2020:
- Chepang – Chatta
- Muro – Pacificar
- Rated X – United Front
- Warwound – WWIII
- The Annihilated – Demo 2020
- Scarecrow – Revenge EP
- Jodie Faster – Blame Yourself
- Madam Skam – 6 låtar om 6 EP
- DYYM – 2020
- Drug Victim – Mongrel EP
- タイフーン TAIFUN – Demo 2020
- Active Minds – Two Sides of The Same Coin EP
- Crossed – Barely Buried Love
- Litige – En Eaux Troubles
- ARGH – Maqueta EP
- Detractors – S/T EP
- Fuga – Sin Frontera Sin Nación EP
- The Suffocating Void – Still Life EP
- Discourage – Forlorn Hope EP
- Golpe De Gracia / Blessure – Split EP
- Motron – Who’ll Stop The Rain?
- Sidetracked / The Seeker – Split EP
Here you’ll find great records that could easily go to the main article, but I’m trying to keep it interesting featuring more international bands and a greater diversity of labels.
- FAIM – Hollow Hope
- Oily Boys – Cro Memory Grin
- Choke – It’s Hard To Talk Shit, With No Fucking Teeth
- Gulch – Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress
- Rat Cage - Screams From The Cage
- Skitklass – 世界の平等さようなら EP
- GAG – Still Laughing
- Modern Love – Ensomhet vet EP
- Efa Supertramp – Apocalypstick Blues
- Byenary – S/T EP
- Loose Nukes – Cult Leaders
- Subdued – Over The Hills And Far Away
- Bas Rotten – Surge
- Lái 来 – Pontianak
- Public Acid – Condemnation
- HOTMOM – Stupid Vegan Band EP
- Krigshoder – Krig i hodet EP
- Genöme – Young, Beautiful & Free
- Iena – La Morte Chiama
- Rolex – S/T EP
- Last Agony – S/T EP
- KAZÄN – Demo EP
- Kobra – Confusione
- Parasit – Samhällets Paria
- Straw Man Army – Age of Exile
- Chubby & The Gang – Speed Kills
- Kaleidoscope – Decolonization EP
- Laffing Gas – It’s a Beautiful Day in the Gulch